After nearly 10 years in development, Manitobabased Dynamic Ditchers Inc. recently put their Wolverine Rotary Ditcher into production. This machine is capable of digging drainage ditches, eliminating the need for heavy-duty scrapers. Instead, the Wolverine acts like a snow blower on steroids. It digs into soil and blows it off to the side, leaving removed material evenly spread across the top of an adjacent field. It can spread soil as far as 150 feet from the ditch, according to the company.
The Wolverine has one drawback, however. It was designed for stone-free areas like the heavy clay soils in the Red River Valley, where it was developed. If you live in other parts of the Prairies where stones are a fact of life, the scraper has remained the only machine capable of getting ditching jobs done — until now.
Glenn Vaags, of Dynamic says they recognized the Wolverine’s limitations but still wanted to provide a rotary ditching option for all Prairie producers. To do that, they partnered with Liebrecht Manufacturing of Ohio, who produce their own design capable of handing work in very rocky conditions. Dynamic is now Liebrecht’s Western Canada distributor.
DITCHING ON STONY GROUND
But getting farmers to believe the rotary ditcher concept is viable in areas plagued by stones has been a bit of an uphill climb. To help prove it, company reps from Dynamic and Sylvester (Junior) Liebrecht, owner of Liebrecht Manufacturing and designer of that ditcher, got together in a field near Grenfell, Sask., in July to show local farmers what rotary ditchers can do.
Ryan Maurer, who hosted the event on his farm, saw first hand how the Liebrecht machine dealt with stones. He pointed out rocks that went through the machine when he operated it the day before the scheduled event.
One of the stones, weighing about 15 kilograms (30 pounds), had even been split by the ditcher, but Maurer says it and other rocks went through the machine without any problem. That ability is what sold the management at Dynamic on the Liebrecht design. “They took us into a field full of stones and showed us how well it handled them,” says Vaags. Now management at Dynamic is hoping to impress farmers in the same way.
HOW IT WORKS
One of the differences between the Liebrecht ditcher and Dynamic’s own Wolverine is the slower rotation speed of the impeller. It turns at 160 r. p. m., while the Wolverine’s spins at 270. That, along with the heavier design, allows the Liebrecht to handle rocks. And despite the slower rotating speed, both machines spread the soil approximately the same distance from the trench. Walking along demonstration ditches, it was apparent the spread exceeded 30 metres (100 feet) in the field demos.
Maurer believes that even spread is a real advantage over a conventional scraper. “With a scraper, you end up dumping (the removed soil) into the slough,” he says. “The advantage is for every six inches to dump into them, that’s six inches less you have to cut. But do you want all that soil on top of the three feet that’s already there, or is it better on the hilltops?
Putting soil back on hilltops to compensate for years of erosion helps even out field conditions, leading to more consistent plant stands and better fertilizer usage. Rotary ditchers can do that without leaving ridges that need to be levelled out. Pointing to the spread of soil across the field from the Liebrecht machine, Maurer says, “We’ll just run the cultivator over that to work it in.”
Unlike the Wolverine, the Liebrecht Ditcher doesn’t use shear pin protection. Instead, Liebrecht says the best way to prevent damage is to limit the horsepower of the tractor in front of it. Keeping PTO horsepower down to approximately 300 will avoid causing damage. The ditcher’s heavy construction is designed to handle the job from there.
The Wolverine is a lighter ma- chine that does use shear pins to avoid damage. “Ours have shear protection in two places, at the top input of the first gear box and in the oil-bath chain case,” says Vaags. They are designed to be replaced in a couple of minutes without tools.
Both machines require about the same horsepower. And having a creeper gear in the tractor will be a real advantage when using the Liebrecht model. To make it work to its maximum potential will require a ground speed of about one-half to one mile per hour. The Wolverine has an optimum working speed of about two miles per hour.
If you have to deal with rocky conditions, you’ll need the heavy-duty design of the Liebrecht. The largest model, which is eight feet in diameter, retails for $62,000. The lighter Wolverine will save you about $18,000, if you are lucky enough not to have stones in your fields.
The Liebrecht is also available in a less expensive six-foot model, which Dynamic intends to offer to Canadian producers as well. The horsepower requirement for it drops to about 200.
As for how much work these machines are capable of, Dynamic’s spokesman says under ideal conditions the Wolverine can move close to 1,000 yards per hour. But that number drops to 300 to 400 if the soil is very wet. With numbers like that, rotary ditchers are at least as efficient as a conventional scraper. The general consensus of those preparing for the field day, who watched the Liebrecht machine work, was it could likely do far more in a day than any typical farm scraper. That’s part of the reason Maurer and his neighbours were giving it a close look.
For more information on both machines contact Dynami c Ditchers Inc. 204-444-5513 or take a look at their website www.dynamicditchers.com.
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